If 2014’s The Old Believer was The Atlas Moth’s most melodic album, then Coma Noir just might be their harshest The Chicago group keeps to their signature experimental sludge sound, but the band dynamic is more abrasive than past efforts. The drums boast a militantly industrial pounding, the electronics are dissonant, the guitars are more straightforward, and the vocals largely consist of high-pitched shrieks with occasional backing cleans.
Of course, these elements are also used well for less extreme sequences. “Galactic Brain” stands out for its intermingling clean squeals to surprisingly catchy effect, and “The Streets of Bombay” follows it up with building drums and excellent guitar/keyboard dynamic shifts. “Smiling Knife” also stands out for pairing some brighter guitar patterns with one of the album’s most twisted vocal performances, and “Chloroform” closes the album with horns and dissonant vocal distortion accompanying the slowest riff set.
The album’s tone manages to unify these different influences well while offering a distinct aesthetic. This is easily The Atlas Moth’s darkest album and the vibe is as noir as the title suggests, but there’s a desolate undercurrent like that of black metal that can be felt throughout. I’m not sure what the album’s narrative details, but it makes for a fascinating journey.
Overall, Coma Noir is one of The Atlas Moth’s more inaccessible albums, but might also be one of their best. It’s an abrasive listen that takes multiple listens to get a feel for, but the performances are powerful, and the unique tone makes the genre blending that much more interesting. 2011’s An Ache for the Distance remains the best entry point for The Atlas Moth, but time will likely set this up to be just as significant.
“The Streets of Bombay”
“Actual Human Blood”